Amnesty International ignores protests, votes to decriminalise global sex trade

A tourist carries a woman as sex workers look on near Orchard Towers in Singapore.Reuters

Despite opposition from various sectors including Christian groups and even Hollywood celebrities, non-government organisation Amnesty International on Tuesday approved a new policy seeking the decriminalisation of the sex trade.

The human rights organisation passed the measure recommending the "full decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work" during its decision-making forum, the International Council Meeting, in Dublin, Ireland.

The group based its decision on its independent study which suggested that decriminalising the sex trade was the best way to defend the rights of sex workers.

"Sex workers are one of the most marginalised groups in the world who in most instances face constant risk of discrimination, violence and abuse," Amnesty International's secretary-general Salil Shetty said in a statement.

Shetty further defended the group's decision by saying that it was done "from the perspective of international human rights standards."

Amnesty International is expected to use its decision to lobby governments to also decriminalise the sex trade.

The human rights organisation's decision, however, was met with howls of protest from various groups, especially those who have women victimised by human traffickers as members.

"We feel that Amnesty International is supporting the men who are killing our women and it's a slap in the face," Bridget Perrier, former sex worker, said.

Esohe Aghatise, anti-trafficking manager at Equality Now, said Amnesty International "has ignored international law and has ignored the evidence from countries which have decriminalised brothel keeping, pimping and buying sex."

"It is a matter of deep regret that Amnesty has chosen to support the powerful sex trade barons who exploit the weak and poor and has refused to listen to the voice of survivors," Aghatise said.

Amnesty's policy adviser Catherine Murphy, however, defended her group, saying they are not advocating the removal of laws against exploitation, abuse, trafficking, and involvement of children.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding about our proposal. What decriminalising talks about is the laws that are used to criminalise adult consensual sex work, or selling of sex among consensual adults," Murphy said.